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Gloria Ratti, ‘first lady’ of the Boston Marathon, dies at 90

The Boston Athletic Association is mourning the loss of vice president, historian, and archivist Gloria Ratti, who died Saturday at 90 “after a courageous battle with cancer,” the organization said in a statement.

Ms. Ratti, a South Boston native, served the BAA and Boston Marathon runners in a variety of roles over more than half a century of involvement with the organization, according to the statement.

“Gloria in essence was the First Lady of our sport, no matter where she went,” Guy Morse, former BAA executive director and a longtime colleague to Ms. Ratti, said in the statement.

“From champions to common runners, Gloria personally cared for everyone and represented the human side of running,” he said. “It was her mission to make the Boston Marathon more than a single-day event; she strived to make it a personal experience for so many. She did that, but also was the moral authority that helped propel the entire organization forward.”

Ms. Ratti began as a volunteer with the North Medford Running Club at the Marathon’s Boylston Street finish line in the 1960s with her late husband, Charlie Ratti, the BAA said. The organization credits her with being the first to instruct finish line officials to record the time of every runner who completed the race; previously records had been kept only for the top 100 competitors.

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In the 1970s, Ms. Ratti pushed the organization to better support women runners and developed a checkpoint system to track the leading female runners and highlight their achievements, the BAA said.

“Gloria Ratti wasn’t afraid to share her opinion, and oftentimes it was just the advice that those in the sport needed to hear,” the statement said. “Her sense of loyalty to the race, running community, and women runners was evident.”

Ms. Ratti went on to fight for equal prize money for the women’s race when the Marathon went from amateur to professional in 1986, the BAA said.

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“Gloria was not going to shortchange women from earning the same as their male counterparts, breaking a glass ceiling that was typical at other events,” the statement said.

Ms. Ratti was elected to the BAA’s board of governors in 1987. Six years later, she joined the organization full time after retiring from a career of more than 40 years with the CIA, where she rose to chief clerk, the BAA said.

“The real force of her nature was the employment of high standards and commitment to excellence,” said BAA president and chief executive Tom Grilk. “With Gloria, it was this very strong personal commitment to excellence, to getting things done the best they can be and the way that they ought to be done.”


Nick Stoico can be reached at nick.stoico@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @NickStoico.